Before leaving for my vacation in August, I started explaining about the Holy Mass. I stopped with Part 1, “Gathering Rites”, which concludes with the Opening Prayer. This week I resume it from Part 2.
Part 2: Liturgy of the Word
After the Gathering Rites, we sit down and listen to the Word of God. It is proclaimed to us from the Holy Scripture, which has totally 73 Books (Old Testament 46 Books and New Testament 27 Books) written by human authors but inspired by the Holy Spirit. On Sundays, there are three readings read from the Bible. We believe that God speaks to us in the inspired Books. Hence, the reader, at the end of the reading, announces “This is the Word of God”. Having heard God speaking to us, we all respond saying “Thanks be to God.”
The first reading is read from the Old Testament, except during the Easter Season, during which it is read from the “Acts of the Apostles” in the New Testament. This narrates the history of how God manifested His love, chose the people of Israel, made a covenant with them; at the same time, how the people were not faithful in responding to God’s love. Generally, the first reading is related to the Gospel passage chosen for the day.
Following the first reading one of the Psalms, which is an inspired hymnal from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, is either sung or recited. The psalm is very closely connected to the theme of the first reading.
The second reading is read usually from one of the letters of St. Paul. Sometimes it is read also from one of the letters of St. Peter or of St. John.
The third reading is taken from one of the four Gospels. Since we believe of the unique presence of Christ, who speaks to us directly in the Gospel, it has been a long custom in the Catholic Church to stand in attentive reverence to hear the Gospel. The Gospel is always read by the priest or the deacon, representing Christ. At the beginning of the Gospel reading, having introduced from which of the Gospel the passage is read, we all make the sign of the cross on the forehead, lips and the heart. We do so, in order that we may be cleansed in our mind to understand God’s Word, lips to proclaim His Word and heart to love Him dearly. The priest or the deacon concludes the Gospel reading saying “The Gospel of the Lord” and all the people respond “Praise to you, Lord, Jesus Christ”, proclaiming our faith in the presence of Christ in the Gospel.
To be continued,
Fr. Arul Joseph V.